Born: Vancouver, Canada. Raised in Northern California.
Worked in: London; San Francisco and Monterey Park in California; Hong Kong; Heilongjiang, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in China
Name an innovative idea or business solution for which you are most proud? Working in Shanghai under the mentorship and guidance of Tim Love, I was able to play a key role in nurturing the multi-million dollar Nissan-Dong Feng Joint Venture in China, and then go on to help establish TBWA\Hakuhodo in China. This testament to cultural diversity in business meant that a Japanese-American ad agency was formed to serve a joint-venture Sino-Japanese auto manufacturer in China with a brand whose origin is from Japan, but is aiming to become a truly global product.
How would you characterize innovation in your work? Innovation, to me, comes about by drawing upon one’s own unique international and cultural experiences. Using this first-hand knowledge to creatively solve challenging problems can bring about successful, and often unexpected, solutions.
What role does innovation play in your marketing strategy today? Innovation certainly plays a critical role, especially when serving clients based in Texas from somewhere as far away and as foreign as Beijing. Surprisingly, the most innovative solutions can often have roots in some of the simplest acts. For example, during the planning stage for our AT&T- Olympics project, I realized that there would be little progress until my Texas clients had a first-hand experience of Beijing — for the first time in their lives. After their travel to China, we easily moved from theoretical discussions to innovative planning. Perhaps a small point to mention, but it builds a critical foundation.
Why do people see you as an innovator? Drawing on an international and culturally-diverse background certainly helps with innovative thinking. Typically, I like to use creative methods to devise breakthrough solutions to challenging or nebulous situations in business development.
What is the biggest challenge you face in applying innovative thinking to international projects? The biggest challenge is always the need to overcome the gaps and clarify the diversities among cultures. The end solution of any strong campaign is generally universal in its consumer appeal or in its presentation of a brand ethos. However the methods, approach and process vary across different cultures and traditions, and it is important to bear this in mind.
Other International Facts: Growing up in Oakland California’s Chinatown, I simultaneously attended two schools-an American one during the day and a draconian Chinese school in the evenings. I learned about cultural differences at an early age!
Internationalist Trivia: I was born to parents of Shanghainese and Cantonese decent, yet my maternal great-grandmother was of Japanese ancestry, and my maternal grandfather served in the U.S. Navy and fought in Pearl Harbor.